2017 Week Five: Education


It’s hard to reflect on the week when the news of yesterday is still so new. One of the reasons I am so passionate about public policy is improving lives — making sure everyone can enjoy them in a way that’s equal and less about minimizing suffering and more about genuinely improving quality.

Over the past year or two, I have spent a more than ample amount of time thinking about my future and how I hope to achieve real change, and I have never considered a time where I wouldn’t (eventually) find a job after graduation or go to grad school or find a career I loved.

One thing I hadn’t given enough thought to was the fragility of the lives I wanted to support in my work. This week, the Hopkins community lost someone just one year younger than me, with one of the brightest futures ahead of her, and none of it makes any sense, for a young, bright life like Abby’s to be taken. Suddenly, the whole world comes into harsh focus with the realization that tragedy does not choose wisely or mercifully. We take our time in life thinking that every day is guaranteed, that the dream we didn’t accomplish now will have time to be achieved in the future. Yet when people tell you to live every day like it’s your last, it’s a cliche. But it’s a cliche because it’s true.

I have taken time over the past two days to tell the important people in my life how much I love them, and to think about the way I’ve conducted myself over the past three years at Hopkins — viewing my undergraduate career as the mandatory four years I must wait out until I can start changing the world. But that is a dangerous, naive way to think. My job this summer has been a step in the right direction, of learning where to move forward and take action. But I know how easy it would have been for me to slip back into my Hopkins mindset in the fall, focusing heavily on classes and job applications and waiting another 10 months before taking charge of my life and the impact I want to have.

I cannot fathom the idea of doing that anymore. People are glass, from the children at work to my principal to my boyfriend and my mother, and me. And the idea of wasting any time now seems like a sin.

You will be so missed dearly, Abby.

picture of Tena Spencer CIIPTENA SPENCER | THREAD

This week unfortunately seemed to go on longer than the rest. Without site visits, I was in the office and on my laptop all day. Although I missed the face-to-face interactions with employers and seeing our students do so well in their summer jobs, I was definitely thrown in to the hustle of the office and was reminded how vital a role the interns are to the day to day functioning of Thread.

We revisited the summer master tracker – the Excel spreadsheet that has all the information about students relating to summer jobs and summer schools that not only the Thread staff would want to know, but possibly board members and donors as well. We all had to regroup and ensure the clarity and accuracy of the tracker so it can best be used by anyone. That meeting reminded of my very first meeting of the summer when the tracker existed, but was not as comprehensive or even used since neither summer jobs or school has started.

The meeting was as necessary as ever, especially as we hit the mid-point of the summer. So, instead of going on site visits, it was nice and also crucial to revisit the tasks that I began the summer with – calling and email employers and planning for the weeks ahead while providing general damage control support to our students.

picture of Angad Uppal CIIPANGAD UPPAL | THREAD

This week was the toughest for me, personally. The week was filled with a lot of mistakes and a giant learning curve. After our site visits last week, I had to put together a report of how our students were doing and what employers were saying about our students in the workplace. Unfortunately, I put students ‘full names in the document, which I learned is not a good because it’s confidential, even within the organization. In addition, I also did some tasks on excel that ended up creating more work for a couple of my co-workers. Towards the end of the week, I started to feel discouraged. Since I let it affect me, I had to talked to my boss, Neekta about it. Neekta was so supportive through the whole thing and reassured me that not only am I helping, but that it is ok to make mistakes. If I don’t make mistakes, then I will never learn. She reassured me that she doesn’t expect me to be perfect, and that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. Having her say that to me was so supportive, amazing, and exactly what I needed when I felt discouraged. I couldn’t imagine having a better, more accepting, and supportive work environment than the one I have at Thread and I consider myself truly blessed. Our Friday finished up with a Professional Development workshop hosted by , where we talked about creativity and why being creative is so important. We did some exercises about creatively drawing. We then did an activity where we split up on different sides of the room based on certain personality traits we have. We talked about which personalities we do and do not like to work with. After that the students were split into four teams. I also participated in this exercise. We were given a client who wanted us to build a bridge out of office supplies. The specifications we were given were 1) Pedestrian bridge, bikes could go on it 2) Make it beautiful and flashy 3) It stretches from Locus Point to Fells Point. In the end, myself and a particular student worked on the bridge surface and outline. We made it look like a boat since it would be over the inner harbor. We also had different lookout points on the bridge, which is very different from most bridges we see in the world. The two other students on our team worked on the base and support structure. At first, one student was working hard, while the other was sitting back. Eventually, the student who was being unproductive was challenged by the student who was working hard. This made the former student took it upon himself to prove the other one wrong. He worked so hard on the support system and became so focused, that it came out really well. This was an interesting experience for me. It was a rare moment in which competition between students ended up working because it made them very productive.

picture of Eileen Yu CIIPEILEEN YU | MERIT

This past week, the students started getting their first A’s on their assignments! I am so incredibly excited for them! At the start of the program, I told them that each day, I would write the names of those who earned a 90 or higher on their homework on the board at the front. The board stayed empty for the first week. Each day, the students would ask me what the average, highest, and lowest scores were. I had been shocked when last week, they each said they wanted to go to Ivy League schools. With many of them not knowing how to write in complete sentences and nearly all lacking basic grammar skills, I felt almost defeated already. When I told them about my experiences at Hopkins—how many hours I had to study each day, the amount of homework, the expectations of our professors—they were astounded. They had never even imagined such a level of academic rigor could exist. However, over the last week, I saw that thought they were clearly disadvantaged by the city’s awful education system, their level of motivation perfectly matched that of the most successful students I have met at Hopkins. One of the most memorable moments from the summer so far was when I walked up to the board and wrote the names of five of my students who had done great on their homework. Before I could say a word, the entire class burst out in applause. Their motivation and investment in their educations and futures despite all the factors in play against them is so extraordinary!

Tags: , , , , , ,